Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Qualitative Health Research (2016), 14pp. doi 10.1177/1049732316645321


Copyright © 2016 Janice L. Krieger, Jessica L. Krok-Schoen, Phokeng M. Dailey, Angela L. Palmer-Wackerly, Nancy Schoenberg, Electra D. Paskett, and Mark Dignan. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


Distributed cognition occurs when cognitive and affective schemas are shared between two or more people during interpersonal discussion. Although extant research focuses on distributed cognition in decision making between health care providers and patients, studies show that caregivers are also highly influential in the treatment decisions of patients. However, there are little empirical data describing how and when families exert influence. The current article addresses this gap by examining decisional support in the context of cancer randomized clinical trial (RCT) decision making. Data are drawn from in-depth interviews with rural, Appalachian cancer patients (N = 46). Analysis of transcript data yielded empirical support for four distinct models of health decision making. The implications of these findings for developing interventions to improve the quality of treatment decision making and overall well-being are discussed.